Can it get any worse than what we saw on January 6?


Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

And we thought 2020 was bad.

The events of January 6, in so many respects, were far worse, threatening the very foundation of our representative democracy and forever casting a pall over a presidency that has been built on self-interest and a total disdain for the rule of law.

When assigning blame for what happened at the Capitol, look no further than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where for the past four years we have been subjected to governing by bullying and truth-bending, squashing any hope of uniting a country that for years has been fractured by partisan politics.

On Jan. 6, a day when the U.S. Congress was scheduled to certify the Electoral College votes and the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the nation’s 46th president, turmoil reigned instead, fed by a lame duck leader seemingly bent on avoiding eviction at whatever the cost.

It stood in stark contrast to the Capitol scene four years ago when that same “leader” took the oath of office at his inauguration, pledging to uphold the Constitution and the fundamental rights and liberties it embodies.

Depending on your political perspective at the time, it was the dawning of a new conservative era in the U.S. or the onset of a four-year reign that could redefine our democracy in uncertain terms.
For supporters of the new president, it was a day of unbridled celebration, punctuated by speech-making, merriment, and political promises that would be hard to keep.

Eight years earlier, the nation was on the eve of sweeping political change as well, but then ushered in by an Ivy League-educated U.S. Senator who was destined to break the color barrier that had been erected around the Oval Office for more than two centuries.

It was a “wall” that had not served the nation well, excluding those of black or brown skin tones who longed – and were eminently qualified – to lead a world super power. The electorate’s willingness to embrace diversity – not once, but twice – over those eight years, demonstrated a desire to make a nation “great again,” to borrow a catch phrase.

The 2009 experience in Washington was absorbed by a record crowd assembled for a “New Birth of Freedom,” which served as the inaugural theme to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

The theme, of course, was built around a phrase from the Gettysburg Address, and expressed ideals about renewal, continuity, and national unity. In 2009, the then president-elect stressed the need for “shared sacrifice” and a “new sense of responsibility to answer America’s challenges at home and abroad.”

The 2009 event, unlike many previous inaugurations, was orchestrated to encourage greater participation among ordinary citizens, as organizers opened the entire length of the National Mall as the public viewing area for the swearing-in ceremony.

Also, for the first time, thanks to the generosity of a philanthropist, a “People’s Inaugural Ball” for the disadvantaged was held for those who otherwise would be unable to afford to attend the gala festivities. Relatedly, a first-ever “Neighborhood Inaugural Ball” also took place with free or nominally priced tickets for ordinary citizens.

In short, it was an event designed to connect rich and poor, black and white, blue collar and white collar.

That day, January 20, 2009, the soon-to-be 44th president of the United States was about to inherit an economy that was in shambles. The housing market was in the tank, the nation’s lending capacity was nearly frozen, and the average American household had lost a third of its net worth in less than three years. Internationally, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still raging, and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was still on the loose.

In other words, it was less than a fine time to be president.

Still, for millions of Americans, the presidency of Barack Obama represented hope – for a more inclusive country and for renewed economic stability.

Now, as a new commander in chief prepares to take center stage on January 20, a deeply divided nation can only hope that we can enjoy a healthy dose of healing, soothing the wounds opened by a presidency built around bravado and bombast.


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